Did climate change contribute to the Covid-19 pandemic, assuming it came from a natural source (i.e. not from a lab leak)?

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard C-CHANGE), said there is no direct evidence that climate change is one of the causes of the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically the spillover from a bat into a person. “We don’t know the origins of when and where it happened, even then there’s no distinguishable fingerprint of climate change,” he said.

But there are plenty of connections between climate change and the new coronavirus, in terms of who gets the disease, how sick one becomes and how to protect oneself. 

One link is that humans are moving into natural ecosystems which has increased our contact with wildlife and the diseases they carry. Tropical deforestation is one example of this phenomenon.  

“Where you’re living and how you’re living can make you vulnerable to the disease,” he said. “We know that this goes beyond the coronavirus. We know that chopping down forests, particularly in the tropics is a launchpad for disease spillover.” 

He said during the crisis over the Ebola virus, a fatal disease that occurs mainly in Africa, there was great concern that loss of tropical rainforest in Africa pushed bats closer to people, leading to more outbreaks. 

Air pollution, which is mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, not only perpetuates climate change but also the public’s susceptibility to the virus. Evidence has shown in multiple studies that there’s a strong likelihood that people who live in places with worse air pollution are more likely to contract the coronavirus and to die from it. 

Other issues associated with climate change, such as water scarcity, can prevent people from washing their hands, which is a main way to protect oneself from the virus.

Abby Weiss

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